John Beargrease Sled Dod Marathon: 'Whistle' makes 'em work at Sawbill stop

ALONG THE SAWBILL TRAIL -- Nathan Schroeder's sled dog, Whistle, got his whistle wet with hydrogen peroxide Monday on the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon trail.

ALONG THE SAWBILL TRAIL -- Nathan Schroeder's sled dog, Whistle, got his whistle wet with hydrogen peroxide Monday on the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon trail.

Whistle wasn't receiving the dog's equivalent to a child getting its mouth washed out with soap -- although the black-and-white husky had been mischievous.

Schroeder, of Chisholm, was preparing his 12-dog team for departure at the Sawbill checkpoint when Whistle wiggled the booty off his foot and ate it.

The Sawbill checkpoint, between the Temperance River and Cook County Highway 2, prohibits dog handlers, leaving Schroeder with another worry, "Do I induce vomit or take the chance of him being sick?"

Schroeder took the proactive approach. Veterinarian Becky Hacker gave Whistle


90 cubic centimeters of hydrogen peroxide, hoping that the carbonation would upset his stomach and force him to vomit the dark booty, a material with a strap that keeps the dogs' feet protected on the trail.

"I can't believe that happened," said Schroeder, 30, after Whistle swallowed it. "He is a master at getting them off."

Whistle's incident came after Schroeder said his team hadn't experienced an injury and had been running well.

Schroeder, in his third Beargrease, was finishing his six-hour mandatory rest at Sawbill and preparing to head north to Trail Center, the race's turnaround point near the Canadian border. But Whistle's antics forced Schroeder to wait in midday temperatures of 30 degrees.

Hacker, a 10-year veterinarian from Shoreview, Minn., has seen dogs harmlessly and accidentally eat razor blades, and Schroeder has seen them eat human gloves, but they wanted to avert a possible health issue with more than half of the race left to run. Hacker gave Whistle small doses of peroxide, hoping she wouldn't have to give him as much as she did. But she said the substance is essentially harmless.

Their preventative measure took a while to come to fruition. Schroeder and another volunteer ran Whistle up and down the Sawbill paths, hoping the movement would rile his stomach.

After about 20 minutes, Whistle was back in his second-row spot with Schroeder ready to test his stomach on the North Shore trail. But finally, Whistle lost his dog lunch.

"I've got a lot of time to watch him," Schroeder joked of how Whistle will react over the 200 remaining miles.


Volunteer Bob White of Elk River, Minn., saw Whistle's initial antics and alerted Schroeder, but it was too little, too late.

"I saw him chewing it. Then he ate it," White said. "It was that quick. I didn't get a chance to call [Schroeder]."

Fellow marathon musher John Stetson boasted about what his dogs have eaten. One ate four booties and digested them without a hitch.

"That is a personal best," Stetson joked.

Health -- not humor -- is of the utmost concern to Beargrease officials with enforced veterinarian checks, including one at Sawbill. Marathon mushers start with 12 dogs and must finish with at least five.

Schroeder and Stetson left Sawbill with all 12 dogs, while Blake Freking and Matt Rossi departed with 11. Only three of the 28 mushers had fewer than 10 dogs at Sawbill.

Some of the ailments that can require treatment include soreness in the wrists, shoulders and feet. As mushers brought their dogs into Sawbill, many rubbed down their animals' joints, removed wet booties and applied ointment to ailments.

Next, most mushers fed the dogs while they warmed water for them -- followed by rest, rest and more rest. Schroeder estimated he had slept one hour in the past 24 as he left the Sawbill checkpoint at 1:56 p.m. behind lead dog Madonna and the harmless menace, Whistle.

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